Our best ideas are those that we think offer the highest risk-adjusted returns over a 12-month timeframe supported by a higher-than-average level of confidence. They are our most preferred sector exposures.

Additions: Orora (ASX:ORA) and Helloworld (ASX:HLO).

Removals: Ventia Services (ASX:VNT)

Large cap best ideas

Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA)

The second largest stock on the ASX by market capitalisation. We view CBA as the highest quality bank and a core portfolio holding for the long term, but the trade-off is it is the most expensive on key valuation metrics (including the lowest dividend yield). Amongst the major banks, CBA has the highest return on equity, lowest cost of equity (reflecting asset and funding mix), and strongest technology. It is currently benefitting from the sugar hit of both the rising rate environment and relatively benign credit environment.

Westpac Banking Corp (ASX:WBC)

We view WBC as having the greatest potential for return on equity improvement amongst the major banks if its business transformation initiatives prove successful. The sources of this improvement include improved loan origination and processing capability, cost reductions (including from divestments and cost-out), rapid leverage to higher rates environment, and reduced regulatory credit risk intensity of non-home loan book. Yield including franking is attractive for income-oriented investors, while the ROE improvement should deliver share price growth.

Wesfarmers (ASX:WES)

WES possesses one of the highest quality retail portfolios in Australia with strong brands including Bunnings, Kmart and Officeworks. The company is run by a highly regarded management team and the balance sheet is healthy. We believe WES’s businesses, which have a strong focus on value, remain well-placed for growth and market share gains in a softening macroeconomic environment.

Macquarie Group (ASX:MQG)

We continue to like MQG’s exposure to long-term structural growth areas such as infrastructure and renewables. The company also stands to benefit from recent market volatility through its trading businesses, while it continues to gain market share in Australian mortgages.

CSL Limited (ASX:CSL)

A key portfolio holding and key sector pick, we believe CSL is poised to break-out this year, a COVID exit trade, offering double-digit recovery in earnings growth as plasma collections increase, new products get approved and influenza vaccine uptake increases around ongoing concerns about respiratory viruses, with shares offering good value trading around its long-term forward multiple of ~30x.

ResMed Inc (ASX:RMD)

While we expect the next few quarters to be volatile as COVID-related demand for ventilators continues to slow and core sleep apnoea volumes gradually lift, nothing changes our medium/longer term view that the company remains well-placed as it builds a unique, patient-centric, connected-care digital platform that addresses the main pinch points across the healthcare value chain.

Transurban (ASX:TCL)

TCL owns a pure play portfolio of toll road concession assets located in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and North America. This provides exposure to regional population and employment growth and urbanisation. Given very high EBITDA margins, earnings are driven by traffic growth (with recovery from COVID) and toll escalation (roughly 70% by at least CPI and approximately one-quarter at a fixed c.4.25% pa). We think TCL will continue to be attractive to investors given its market cap weighting (important for passive index tracking flows), the high quality of its assets, management team, balance sheet, and growth prospects.

QBE Insurance Group (ASX:QBE)

With strong rate increases still flowing through QBE's insurance book, and further cost-out benefits to come, we expect QBE's earnings profile to improve strongly over the next few years. The stock also has a robust balance sheet and remains relatively inexpensive overall trading on 8x FY24F PE.

Aristocrat Leisure (ASX:ALL)

We have three key reasons for being positive on ALL. They are: (1) long-term organic growth potential. ALL is better capitalised than many of its competitors and has what we regard as a strong platform to continue investment in design and development in both its land-based gaming and digital businesses; (2) strong cash conversion and ROCE. ALL is a capital-light business despite its ongoing investment in Gaming Operations capex and working capital. It has a high level of cash conversion and ROCE; and (3) strong platform for investment. ALL has funding capacity for organic and inorganic investment in online RMG, even after the recent buyback. Its current available liquidity is $3.8bn.

Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN)

MIN is a founder-led business and top tier miner and crusher that has grown consistently despite barely issuing a share over the last decade. Also helping our investment view is that MIN’s diversification leaves it far more capable of tolerating volatility in lithium markets than its peers in the sector. We see MIN’s lithium / iron ore market exposures as an ideal combination to benefit from the China re-opening increase in demand during 1H’CY23. We also see MIN as well placed to grow into its valuation, even if we see unexpected metal price volatility, given the magnitude of organic growth in the pipeline.

South32 (ASX:S32)

S32 has transformed its portfolio by divesting South African thermal coal and acquiring an interest in Chile copper, substantially boosting group earnings quality, as well as S32's risk and ESG profile. Unlike its peers amongst ASX-listed large-cap miners, S32 is not exposed to iron ore. Instead offering a highly diversified portfolio of base metals and metallurgical coal (with most of these metals enjoying solid price strength). We see attractive long-term value potential in S32 from de-risking of its growth portfolio, the potential for further portfolio changes, and an earnings-linked dividend policy.

Santos (ASX:STO)

The resilience of STO's growth profile and diversified earnings base see it well placed to outperform against the backdrop of a broader sector recovery. While pre-FEED, we see Dorado as likely to provide attractive growth for STO, while its recent acquisition increasing its stake in Darwin LNG has increased our confidence in Barossa's development. PNG growth meanwhile remains a riskier proposition, with the government adamant it will keep a larger share of economic rents while operator Exxon has significantly deferred growth plans across its global portfolio.

Goodman Group (ASX:GMG)

GMG represents c.27% of the ASX A-REIT index and is one of the few offshore earners in the A-REIT space. GMG rarely screens cheap against domestic peers, but within the context of its offshore peers, it consistently delivers higher returns at lower levels of leverage and at a comparable price to book ratio. Growth in Assets Under Management and development completions are a key determinant of value and an AUM of A$80bn (US$50m) is comparatively modest in a global context, whilst A$7bn (US$5.5n) of completions pa we see as likely sustainable. With continued increases in interest rates and persistent inflation (most notably construction costs), risks abound the REIT sector. This drives our preference for beds and sheds, reflecting the strength of those underlying operating markets. Given the duration risk from higher rates, we prefer more active managers who can grow AUM and add value from an active buy, build, manage strategy. To this end, strong balance sheets are also key to navigate any deterioration in book values.

Seek (ASX:SEK)

Of the classifieds players, we continue to see SEEK as the one with the most relative upside, a view that had previously been based on sustained listings growth. However, whilst the tailwinds that had driven elevated job ads in prior periods appear to be abating to a degree, we note businesses are continuing to look to grow headcount in the coming months and vacancy rates remain elevated. Candidates are returning to the platform with applications per job ad now approaching pre-COVID levels (on improved migration levels and labour mobility), suggesting SEEK has additional flexibility to pull the dynamic pricing lever – helping to drive yield growth into FY24.

Telstra (ASX:TLS)

After a major turnaround, TLS has emerged in good shape with strong earnings momentum and a strong balance sheet. In late CY22 shareholders voted on Telstra's legal restructure, which opens the door for value to be released from the separation of TLS’s infrastructure and core mobile business. TLS currently trades on ~8x EV/EBITDA. However, some of TLS’s high quality long life assets like InfraCo are worth substantially more, in our view. We don’t think this is in the price so see it as value generating for TLS shareholders. This, free option, combined with progressive price rises underpins positive earnings momentum and means TLS remains well placed for the year ahead.

Qantas Airways (ASX:QAN)

QAN is now our preferred pick of our travel stocks under coverage given it has the most near-term earnings momentum. Looking across travel companies globally, airlines are now in the sweet spot given demand is massively exceeding supply. QAN is trading at a material discount compared to pre-COVID multiples, despite having structurally higher earnings, a much stronger balance sheet, a better domestic market position, a higher returning International business and more diversification (stronger Loyalty/Freight earnings). The strong pent-up demand to travel post-COVID should result in a healthy demand environment for some time, underpinning further EBITDA growth over FY24/25. QAN’s balance sheet strength positions it extremely well for its upcoming EBITaccretive fleet reinvestment and further capital management initiatives (recently announced a A$500m on-market share buyback at its 1H23 result). There is also likely upside to our forecasts and consensus if QAN achieves its FY24 strategic targets.

Morgans clients can download our full list of Best Ideas, including our mid-cap and small-cap key stock picks.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this report is provided to you by Morgans Financial Limited as general advice only, and is made without consideration of an individual's relevant personal circumstances. Morgans Financial Limited ABN 49 010 669 726, its related bodies corporate, directors and officers, employees, authorised representatives and agents (“Morgans”) do not accept any liability for any loss or damage arising from or in connection with any action taken or not taken on the basis of information contained in this report, or for any errors or omissions contained within. It is recommended that any persons who wish to act upon this report consult with their Morgans investment adviser before doing so.

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